Monday, October 16, 2017

Seibu Lions 2017 playoff digest: Season ends in Climax Series


The Saitama Seibu Lions season ended against Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the first stage of the Climax Series. Here is how it all went down:

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Game 1 would have Takahiro Norimoto against Yusei Kikuchi. Hideto Asamura drew first blood with a two-run HR in the bottom of the 1st after Sosuke Genda was hit by a pitch. After Kikuchi drew multiple double plays, the Lions erupted in the bottom of the third.

Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and Ginjiro Sumitani hit a two-out double to make it 5-0. Shogo Akiyama and Sosuke Genda slapped timely singles to add two more runs.

Kikuchi escaped a bases loaded situation in the top of the 4th and it was smooth sailing from there. Okawari-kun crushed a three-run HR off Koji Aoyama to make it 10-0.

It wasn't dominant, but Kikuchi earned the shutout victory with nine strikeouts and good defense behind him.

Lions 10, Eagles 0

Game notes:

-With the HR, Okawari-kun tied the league record for most home runs in the Climax Series with 8.

-Every Lions starter had a hit or got on base. Sumitani and Yamakawa had modashos.

-Including the postseason, Kikuchi went 9-0 against the Eagles in nine games, earning a win in each of them.

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Game 2 had Ken Togame facing Takayuki Kishi. The first pitch of the game was sent to the stands thanks to a leadoff HR by Eigoro Mogi. After Kishi worked through giving up a double, the Eagles added two more runs with a base hit by Shintaro Masuda and a safety squeeze from Motohiro Shima.

Despite the slow start, Togame put in a quality start and kept the Lions in the game with 6.1 innings and one strikeout. He did this with only 87 pitches.

Shogo Noda came in with the hopes to retire two left handed batters, but walked two and later gave up an infield single to Mogi from a full count, scoring a run from second base to make it 4-0.

Kishi dominated his former team, with 6.1 innings, eight strikeouts and only three hits allowed without a walk. The Lions scored a run in the 8th inning off an RBI groundout, but that was as close as it got.

The Lions had one final chance off Yuki Matsui in the 9th inning, but came up short when Shuta Tonosaki and Okawari-kun struck out with two runners on base.

Eagles 4, Lions 1

Game note:

-Masatoshi Okada started at catcher and went 0-2.

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The elimination game featured Ryoma Nogami facing Minabu Mima. Nogami would start the game on a slow note, where he walked three batters and gave up an RBI infield single to Zelous Wheeler for a 1-0 Eagles lead. Mima earned a hard shutdown inning where Shogo Akiyama was stranded at third base and two batters struck out.

Wheeler singled to leadoff the 4th and advanced to second base on a bunt. Nogami threw a wild pitch and Wheeler scored from second base. His night ended after 3.2 innings, where he struggled to get the leadoff batter out in three out of four tries. Noda retired Eigoro Mogi with a runner on second to end the top of the 4th.

The Lions chased Mima in the 5th inning after two runners were on base and Ginjiro Sumitani hit a sacrifice fly. The tying run was on third base again, but Akiyama struck out against Yuhei Takanashi. 

Offensively, the Lions blew multiple chances despite only having a few hits. There were runners on base in particularly the 6th inning, but failed situational hitting left a dismal result.

Brian Schlitter came in the top of the 8th and retired the first two batters. However, he gave up a solo HR to Wheeler and a two-run HR to Masuda for the killer finish.

Asamura hit a solo HR, but it was too late. The Lions bats weren't going to score for the rest of the night as their season ended.

Eagles 5, Lions 1

Game note:

-This is the first time in Pacific League Climax Series history where the winner of Game 1 of the first stage did not advance to the next round.

-The Lions have lost in the Climax Series for the third straight trip. Last two outings were in 2012 and 2013, both at home.

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As the season has finished, we want to say thanks for joining us on social media and on our blog. More analysis and coverage to come in the future.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Five Lions named to Samurai Japan for Asia Professional Baseball Championship


Five players from the Saitama Seibu Lions were announced as players for Samurai Japan for the Asia Professional Baseball Championship on Thursday night.

Katsunori Hirai, Hotaka Yamakawa, Sosuke Genda, Shuta Tonosaki and Shinsaburo Tawata will be representing Japan among the Lions. To be eligible, a player had be born after January 1, 1993 or be with their professional team for three years or less. This counts as a U24 baseball event.

Genda and Tawata are both 24 while Hirai and Tonosaki were drafted in 2016 and 2014, respectively. Samurai Japan was also allowed to have three older players who can fit the overage bracket. Yamakawa would be one of the three as he was drafted in 2013 and will turn 26 in November.

Yamakawa, Genda and Tonosaki all received significant playing time with the ichi-gun in 2017. Genda was second in stolen bases with 37 and had tremendous defense. Tonosaki became a starting outfielder for majority of the season and also had his share of stolen bases while maintaining that he belongs with the ichi-gun. He is the only player on this list to spend the entire 2017 season at the ichi-gun level.

Tawata spent the first half of this season with an injury, but came on well in the second half as a starter. Hirai would be a medium leverage pitcher to take innings in middle relief. Yamakawa had the strongest season of the bunch, where he hit 23 home runs after being called up in the second half.

Nien Ting Wu will also be participating in this tournament representing Taiwan. With the Lions, he appeared in 15 ichi-gun games batting .231/.295/.333. He practiced playing multiple positions, including the outfield at the ni-gun level. 

The APBC begins on November 16 with all games taking place in Tokyo Dome. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are the three participants as they'll play each other in a round robin format. The top two countries after all the games will play a championship deciding game, meaning a team will play three games at most.

Best of luck to all Lions players involved next month.

Here is the remainder of the Samurai Japan roster:

Pitchers:

Taisuke Yamaoka (Buffaloes)
Katsuki Matayoshi (Dragons)*
Yasuaki Yamasaki (Baystars)
Taisuke Kondo (Buffaloes)
Shota Imanaga (Baystars)
Kazuki Yabuta (Carp)
Tsuyoshi Ishizaki (Tigers)
Mizuki Hori (Fighters)
Kazuto Taguchi (Giants)

Catchers:

Kensuke Kondo (Fighters)
Tatsuhiro Tamura (Marines)
Shingo Usami (Giants)
Takuya Kai (Hawks)*

Infielders:

Yota Kyoda (Dragons)
Shogo Nakamura (Marines)
Ryoma Nishikawa (Carp)
Go Matsumoto (Fighters)

Outfielders:

Louis Okoye (Eagles)
Masayuki Kuwahara (Baystars)
Seiji Uebayashi (Hawks)

*Overage bracket


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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

2017 Central League Climax Series: Hanshin taking on streaky Baystars


While we already previewed the Pacific League's first round of the Climax Series, the Central League also has an intriguing matchup of the Yokohama DeNA Baystars and Hanshin Tigers. Here is our breakdown:

Yokohama DeNA Baystars

The Baystars came into this season with higher expectations after finishing in A-class for the first time in the Climax Series era. They were able to repeat this success with a third place finish, but some will argue that they were the beneficiaries of the Yomiuri Giants underachieving. The Giants had a poor 6-12 stretch in interleague play with an overlapping 13 game losing streak and a stretch of 1-15 when it ended.

DeNA clinched A-class on the last week of the regular season as the Hanshin Tigers knocked out toe Kyojin. This year's team had some down seasons offensively with some inflated numbers due to their hitter's ballpark. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo only had 28 home runs and Takayuki Kajitani wouldn't get on base as well for a leadoff hitter. It took a batting title season from Toshiro Miyazaki and a tremendous rebound year from Jose Lopez to do enough with the bats.

Starting pitching continued its upward trend, where Shota Imanaga avoided a sophomore slump, Shoichi Ino carrying the innings and Joe Wieland being a solid foreign import signing. Middle relief and inconsistent hitting has been the Baystars weakness as they've been dependent on the home run. Spencer Patton, Tomoya Mikami and Kenjiro Tanaka were all shaky, but Yasuaki Yamasaki had a better season and re-earned the closer spot in the middle of the year.

At 73-65-5, Alex Ramirez's (Rami-chan) Baystars had a winning record for the first time since 2001.  The Baystars will probably use Imanaga, Wieland and Ino in this series.

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Hanshin Tigers

Tomoaki Kanemoto entered his second season as the team's manager and with the trend among the Tigers, this year determines a make or break scenario for the long run. The Tigers started slow out of the gate defensively with plenty of kids in the field.

Hanshin's ultimate strength was pitching with Randy Messenger, Takumi Akiyama and Atsushi Nomi being the mainstays in the rotation. Messenger spent the last two months injured while others had to step it up. Their bullpen took the biggest leap with Rafael Dolis closing, Marcos Mateo as the setup man, while supporters Akifumi Takahashi, Kentaro Kuwahara, Suguru Iwazaki and Kyuji Fujikawa all had roles in middle relief.

The only disappointment in all of this was Shintaro Fujinami spending most of the year in ni-gun as he struggled with control. He is slated to not play in this series.

Offense has been up and down, where free agent signing Yoshio Itoi spent a chunk of the season injured, but was solid in the second half when healthy. Takashi Toritani kept his iron man streak intact with a decent year at the plate, but some positions would change from opening day. Like last year, it was all about getting experience for players and a few were able to step it up.

Masahiro Nakatani, Shunsuke Fujikawa and Hiroki Uemoto were all decent in perspective with Nakatani leading the team in home runs. Kosuke Fukudome is getting up there in age, but he still had a role with 18 home runs. An aging Takashi Toritani had a rebound season playing 3B. Even Hayata Ito, an outfield viewed as a first round bust, has become a solid pinch hitter.

Shun Takayama, the team's 2015 first round pick, was disappointing and was sent to ni-gun, Fumiya Hojo would lose his job at shortstop and foreigners Eric Campbell and Jason Rogers only provided a short term solution for a handful of games.

Like Rami-chan, Kanemoto doesn't have a  track record and this will be his first postseason as manager. It's likely the Tigers will have Messenger, Akiyama and Nomi taking the three games.

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History

As earlier mentioned, this is only the second time the Baystars have played a postseason game in the Climax Series era with the first being last year. Prior to 2016, their last playoff game was in the 1998 Japan Series.

Hanshin missed the postseason after a poor September in 2016 in Kanemoto's first year. They were an A-class team from 2013-2015 and made the Japan Series as a second place team in 2014.

The Tigers won the head to head series 14-10-1 in the regular season. Strangely enough, the road team would do better when these two teams played, where Hanshin dominated Yokohama Stadium going 8-3-1.  This means DeNA won the games at Koshien going 7-6, but this record shouldn't mean too much.

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Outlook

Christian: I think the Tigers rotation and bullpen will be no match for the Baystars, but anything can happen. DeNA needs to get to the starter early, because if Hanshin goes to their bullpen, it's over on paper. The Baystars starting pitching can keep them in games, but I don't trust their pen, nor their streaky bats who live and die by the home run. Kanemoto's inexperience could hurt them in the series as Rami-chan is one who has strong preparation skills. However, I'm picking the team with more talent and stronger pitching over an intriguing rotation, but no middle relief. Yokohama's team won't be as lucky like last year when avoiding Tomoyuki Sugano.  Tigers in 3. 

Wes: Like Christian, I see this series pretty similarly. I can see the Baystars matching the Tigers in one game, but not two, which is why it's hard for me to find a path for the Baystars to steal another Climax Series. I think the venue of Koshien not only favors the Tigers because of the home field advantage but more so in the fact that it's a pitcher's park which will play into the strengths of the Tigers and less so for the Baystars. If Rami-chan does get it done, there has to be something to be said for his motivation skills but I just don't see in this series. Tigers in 2.

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For more in-depth Tigers coverage, The Hanshin Tiger can take you there. 

Follow @TheHanshinTiger

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Graveyard Baseball Podcast: Lions ŌenDEN Episode 21


This is the 21st Episode of the Saitama Seibu Lions podcast.  Christian and Wes discuss the team as a whole, previewing the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for stage 1 of the Climax Series and more!

Other topics include retiring players, new managers and even a few general national headlines.


We apologize for any errors or mistakes that may have happened.  Click here to download. Click here if the embed doesn't work.

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As a bonus, Christian and Wes ranked all 6 NPB playoff teams in a game format. Here were the results:

1. Softbank Hawks
2. Hiroshima Carp
3. Seibu Lions
4. Hanshin Tigers
5. Rakuten Eagles
6. Yokohama DeNA Baystars

Why are they ranked like this? It's explained in a bonus podcast episode below. Listen to find out.



Click here to download. Click here if the embed doesn't work.

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Special thanks to Max G. for the graphic. 

Follow us on Twitter @GraveyardBall

Monday, October 9, 2017

2017 Climax Series: Previewing Seibu and Rakuten


The Saitama Seibu Lions will be facing the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles at MetLife Dome from October 14-16. For the first time 2013, the Lions clinched A-class and finished second place in the Pacific League. This is also Rakuten's first postseason trip since 2013, when they won the pennant under Senichi Hoshino as the manager and Masahiro Tanaka as the ace.

In our preview we'll break down each position and history on both teams leading up to this point.

Background:

As earlier mentioned, the Lions are in the postseason for the first time in four years. The Lions longest stretch of finishing in B-class (Bottom 3) prior to 2014-2016 was 1979-1981, where it was the first three years as Seibu Lions in Tokorozawa. The 1979 Lions were an inherited mess, coming from a team with no identity, scandal and multiple sales in the previous decade. It was also the last year they came in dead last place in the Pacific League.

Coming into the year, Seibu was not a popular pick for A-class under new manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji. There were pitching question marks as well as a poor defense in 2016 that Tsuji needed to fix. The consensus feeling on the Lions was that the could hit at will, but not out-hit their pitching staff.

In the era of the Climax Series (since 2007), the Lions have only advanced to the final round twice in 2008 and 2011.They come in second place three times in 2010, 2012 and 2013, but came up short each time. The Lions did advance as the second place team when the Pacific League exclusively had a playoff in 2004, where that team won the Japan Series.

Rakuten is a recent expansion team due to the merger of Orix Blue Wave and Kintetsu Buffaloes coming the Orix Bufaloes. This is only their third year in A-class and in their last trip back in 2013, they won the Japan Series.

The Eagles were a trendy surprise A-class pick among the three teams who finished in B-class for 2016. They added ex-Lion Takayuki Kishi in the offseason and manager Masataka Nashida had them trending up offensively based on his track record.

In 2009, the first Climax Series appearance for the Eagles, Rakuten came in second place and swept the Softbank Hawks to make the final round. Neither team has faced each other in a postseason series until now.

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Rotation

The Lions are likely to use Yusei Kikuchi, but the question of who comes afterwards is anyone's guess. Ryoma Nogami has done a good job to stay in the rotation for the whole year. Ken Togame was initially the team's 6th starter, but showed he belonged with the ichi-gun.

Brian Wolfe carried the load for most of the first half, but has fallen off on the second half. Shinsaburo Tawata is also intriguing after he had a slow start, but has been respectable in the second half. There are plenty of options, but the decision on who to play after Kikuchi is the question mark.

It was announced that Kikuchi will take Game 1, Togame will take Game 2. Nogami or Tawata could be going if there is a Game 3.

The Eagles three probable pitchers are clear cut in comparison. Takahiro Norimoto is the team's ace and Kishi is part of the 1-2 punch. A potential Game 3 could be an interesting decision for Nashida, but it will likely be Minabu Mima as the third pitcher.

Norimoto and Kishi are a better duo than the combination that the Lions put out on paper and have the experience as well when adding Mima. Eagles get an advantage given the Lions uncertainty.

Edge: Eagles

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Bullpen

It was Rakuten's bullpen as one of the biggest flaws in 2016. They would get quality starts only to have the bullpen crumble. This year, Yuki Matsui had a rebound season and Hiroyuki Fukuyama had an unbelievable stretch without allowing a run to begin the year. Frank Herrmann and Yuhei Takanashi are also intriguing options if needed.

Despite the quality and turnaround, the second half has not been kind to the Eagles where Matsui was injured. The rest of the team went through a funk which trickled to the bullpen. Do we get a first half or second half Eagles bullpen in the postseason?

The Lions also had a strong first half where Tatsushi Masuda has remained the closer where there were some hiccups. Tsuji rode Kazuhisa Makita and Brian Schlitter for the 7th and 8th innings where both were solid in the first half. Other options out of the bullpen include lefty specialists Shota Takekuma, Shogo Noda and Tomomi Takahashi, who is coming off Tommy John surgery.

Like the Eagles, the Lions had an awful second half in middle relief where Makita and Schlitter struggled to protect a lead. The Lions were able to win due to blowing out their competition in games, but when everything is on the line, the bullpen is more likely to falter.

Based on "What have you done for me lately?", both sides are an even matchup as they limp into the postseason. However, the Lions have better depth and more options compared to the Eagles.

Edge: Lions

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First Base

"Ginji" Akaminai has moved around the infield for his career but will likely start at 1B for the series. He was a clutch player from that 2013 team and has the grit for the postseason with his experience.

Hotaka Yamakawa burst onto the scene in the second half of the year for the Lions and has kept his job at first base. His defense and range aren't as impressive at Ginji, but he has the pop to do damage as he won player of the month for August.

Ginji is the more proven player, but Yamakawa's pop and recent trends give him a slight advantage for Seibu.

Edge: Lions

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Second Base

Hideto Asamura is coming off another solid season in his first year as the team's captain. Hovering close to .300 and coming just shy of 100 RBI and 20 HRs, Asamura continues to bat in the heart off the order for the Lions with adequate defense.

Kazuya Fujita is a defensive whiz known for his range and fielder. He has an above average bat for a second baseman, but hasn't been healthy for most of the year.

Asamura has the advantage based on the level of his bat alone. Fujita's only argument is what he does with his glove.

Edge: Lions

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Third Base

Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura has been limited for most of the year and has dropped in the Lions batting order. His defense is decent, but he hasn't hit for average in 2017 with only pop.

Zelous Wheeler is having a good season bumping up his average above .270 while reaching the 30 HR benchmark for the first time in NPB. He's also versatile enough to play in the outfield if the Eagles need him.

Combining the pop that both players provide, there's no question that Wheeler has the edge comparing these two. His defense and batting average are better, no doubt.

Edge: Eagles

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Shortstop

Sosuke Genda is likely to win Pacific League rookie of the year by leading the league in stolen bases and having the third highest number of hits for a first year player. His defense has been magical, giving the Lions new life even though he has several errors.

Eigoro Mogi should have won the rookie of the year award last season and had an MVP caliber first half. However, injuries and platooning have limited Mogi's appearances as he wasn't in every game.

Genda is the faster player who is better defensively, but Mogi's bat is stronger without a doubt. When Mogi is healthy, he's a core-four player for the Eagles, giving them the advantage here.

Edge: Eagles

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Outfield

Shogo Akiyama, Yuji Kaneko and Shuta Tonosaki are probably the fastest outfield trio in NPB. All three of them have range, but not the greatest arms. Tonosaki earned his starting job after impressing in left field, which later became right field. Akiyama is coming off a career year with 25 HRs, even though he had 216 hits in 2015. Defending stolen base king Kaneko is still dangerous on the bases as Tonosaki joins him with great speed.

The Eagles used Hiroaki Shimauchi and Carlos Peguero for majority of the season in the OF. Takero Okajima was an all-star for 2016, but had fallen off in 2017. Louis Okoye has been the most intriguing position prospect as a raw talent, but injuries have made his ichi-gun season short.

While Okoye has a lot of potential to do damage, the Lions outfield is more well-rounded and balanced with a proven track record compared to Rakuten's.

Edge: Lions

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Catcher

Ginjiro Sumitani and Motohiro Shima have both played for Samurai Japan, where the former replaced the latter in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Shima has the better reputation, but had a poor season at the plate.

Sumitani has been smarter as a hitter this year while likely benefiting from BABIP. He hasn't been an everyday catcher with Masatoshi Okada getting some games, but his defense is unquestioned. Based on 2017. Gin-chan gets the nod.

Edge: Lions

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Manager

Hatsuhiko Tsuji entered his first season as a manager after spending several years as a coach. He made his goal simple, which was to focus on defense. Obviously has no track record or postseason experience being the man in charge until now.

Masataka Nashida has led the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters to Pacific League pennants in 2001 and 2008, respectively. In both outings, his teams would lose the Japan Series. When hired, this was initially viewed as a retread, but it made plenty of sense for an Eagles team who struggled offensively in 2015 under Dave Okubo. Nashida was the predecessor to current Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama.

Under Nashida, the Eagles offense has taken off with less stolen bases, but stronger as a hitting team. Plate discipline and hitting were his strengths at improving the Fighters when Trey Hillman left and it has carried over to Sendai.

With Nashida being more experienced, he has a slight edge over Tsuji, but you can make a good argument for the Lions skipper.

Edge: Eagles

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History: 

The Seibu Lions went 16-8-1 against the Eagles in 2017, which included a 10-game winning streak in the midst of this. Kikuchi also has an eight game streak of beating the Eagles.

Rakuten was strong in the first half when playing Norimoto and Kishi, but the Lions emerged victorious against the bullpen and back end of the Eagles bullpen.

Nashida's last playoff game was in 2011, which was fittingly against the Lions. It was the last time the Lions won a postseason series and was also the final time Yu Darvish played in NPB for the Fighters. This record means all but nothing as the Eagles will put out their best pitchers and should be a challenge.

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Outlook:

The Eagles looked like a pennant winning team in the first half of the year, but fell off the moment Yuki Matsui and Carlos Peguero were injured and the bullpen regressed. The offense wasn't clicking like it was in the first half, while the Lions went on a surge with a 13-game win streak.

Norimoto, Kishi and Mima will still be a tough matchup for the Lions as it is arguably more talented. Does the first half Rakuten team show up or the one we've seen since August?

For the Lions, the bats have been red hot since Yamakawa emerged as the starting 1B and the pitching held its ground. While we can't predict what will happen, we'll find out if the Lions can hit on Norimoto and Kishi. If not, they'll be in for a low scoring affair as the Rakuten starters are capable of stealing one in Tokorozawa.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Report: Seibu Lions announce 7 Senryokugai players


The Saitama Seibu Lions announced seven players on their Senryokugai list for 2017. They will not be returning to the team next season.

C Tatsuyuki Uemoto, IF Shogo Kimura, IF Yuji Onizaki, P Toshihiro Iwao, IF Naoto Watanabe, P Isamu Sato and OF Yutaro Osaki were announced as the players who will be cut.

Kimura was an initial signing after a tryout in 2016 during spring camp. He tore his ACL in the middle of 2016 and spent the beginning of this season as an ikusei in recovery. Kimura played in three games, only recording one hit.

Uemoto was the top pinch hit option in 2016 under Norio Tanabe, but fell out in favor of others including Ryo Sakata, Takumi Kuriyama and other spell players for the role. After playing in 67 games for 2016, he only appeared in 11 where he was on the ichi-gun, but didn't play. He plans to retire.

Onizaki came from the Swallows in a trade for Chikara Onodera and served as a utility infielder. With Sosuke Genda taking the reins at SS, there was no room for Onizaki on the ichi-gun.

Watanabe was another depth option for the infield, but he fell out in favor of Nien Ting Wu and Shuta Tonosaki. He was also a pinch hitter with a decent glove, but will be 37 later this month.

Iwao was a promising pitcher who could strikeout others, but lacked control and failed to make the ichi-gun in 2017. He was a third round pick in 2009.

Osaki was a starting OF in 2012, where he mostly spent his career as a spell outfielder. His role continued to diminish as time went on and he failed to play an ichi-gun game in 2017. A report indicates that he will retire while Kimura is still looking for work.

Sato, 23, is the youngest of the players on this list and fell out of favor for other pitchers on the roster. He made his way up to the ichi-gun in 2016 where he earned one win. He was also involved in a driving accident, which led to a team suspension. In 14 ni-gun games, Sato recorded a 10.64 ERA in 11 innings.

Seven roster spots are officially open for the Lions with these players not returning. A decision will be made on all foreign imports soon, which could leave even more openings. The Lions already released Alexis Candelario earlier this year, giving the team eight open spaces.

The NPB Draft will take place on October 26.

The Lions also announced who would be going to Miyazaki prefecture for the fall 2017 Phoenix League. Here is how the roster shapes up:

Pitchers:

Tatsuya Oishi, Takuya Toyoda, Shunta Nakatsuka, Seiji Kawagoe, Ryohei Fujiwara, Hirotaka Koishi, Tadasuke Minamikawa, Ichiro Tamura, Makoto Aiuchi, Keisuke Honda, Tsubasa Kokuba, Frank Garces, Naoaki Matsumoto, Koki Fujita, Stephen Fife

Infielders: 

Nien Ting Wu, Haruka Yamada, Kazuki Kaneko

Catchers: 

Hitoto Komazuki, Shota Nakata, Komei Fujisawa

Outfielders:

Masato Kumashiro, Shotaro Tashiro, Daisuke Togawa

The Phoenix League starts on October 9 and will go until the 30th.

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Second place, home series secured


The Saitama Seibu Lions guaranteed a second place finish in the Pacific League with a 1-2 week against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in a shortened home stand. Here is what happened:

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The first game had Takahiro Norimoto facing Ken Togame. After a scoreless battle of Houdinis, Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura hit a two-out timely single to plate Hotaka Yamakawa in the bottom of the 4th for a 1-0 lead.

Togame was cruising through five innings, but Zelous Wheeler hit a two-run HR in the top of the 6th and ended his night early to give the Eagles a lead. It was the only downside to Togame's night, where he had six strikeouts and eight hits allowed.

The bases were loaded for the Lions in the bottom of the 6th, but Norimoto struck out Masatoshi Okada and ended the threat. Norimoto's night was done after 130 pitches as the bullpen carried the remaining load.

Daichi Mizuguchi was caught stealing in the 8th to end a chance at a rally. The bottom of the 9th saw Ernesto Mejia lining out as a pinch hitter to end the game as the Eagles kept the last three innings scoreless.

Eagles 2, Lions 1

Game note:

-Kyohei Nagae was called up to the roster.

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The second game from the series had Minabu Mima facing Yusei Kikuchi. Ginjiro Sumitani hit a solo HR in the bottom of the 2nd for the first blood of the game. An error from Kikuchi in the third inning tied the game as he failed to throw the ball to first base. Carlos Peguero added a timely single to give the Eagles a lead.

This wouldn't last long as Hotaka Yamakawa hit a two-run HR for his 22nd of the season. Kikuchi struggled with control and even Kona Takahashi was in the bullpen warming up. He would overcome several walks to keep the Lions one-run lead.

With the third time through the order penalty hitting Mima, the Lions took advantage in the bottom of the 6th. Tomoya Mori slapped an RBI double and a sacrifice fly from Takumi Kuriyama made it 5-2.

The Eagles got a run back on an RBI groundout by Kazuya Fujita in the 7th and they threatened again in the top of the 8th. Rakuten loaded the bases with no outs having two walks and a bunt fielder's choice.

Taishi Nakagawa and Yuichi Adachi struck out with Motohiro Shima as the last hope. He flew out to centerfield and the Houdini was completed.

The Lions pulled away in the bottom of the 8th where Ginjiro Sumitani hit a two-run HR for his second bomb of the night. Genda added an RBI triple and Akiyama hit a two-run HR of his own to make it 10-3.

Shota Takekuma closed out the game as the Lions secured a split.

Lions 10, Eagles 3

Game notes:

-With that triple, Genda passed Shigeo Nagashima for third most hits for a rookie as it was his 154th of the season.

-Shogo Akiyama hit his 25th HR of the year, good for second on the team.

-This would be Kikuchi's 16th win of the year, tying for the Pacific League lead.

-Shogo Saito was added to the ichi-gun with Daichi Mizuguchi being deactivated.

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The final matchup of the regular season had the Fighters come in with Yuki Yoshida and the Lions had Brian Wolfe. Toshitake Yokoo slapped a base hit with the bases loaded in the top of the first for the opening runs.

Sosuke Genda hit an RBI triple and scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2 Fighters after one inning. Wolfe couldn't get a shutdown inning as the Fighters scored both of those runs back off timely hits from Taishi Ota and Kensuke Kondo.

Both runs would come back with solo HRs by Mori and Okawari-kun. Both teams exchanged a run in the 4th inning, where Wolfe couldn't finish his portion of the frame. The game was tied in the bottom of the 5th when Yamakawa hit a solo HR. 

The tie was broken again as T. Ota would hit two-run HR off Tomomi Takahashi in the top of the 6th. Hirotoshi Masui gave the Lions one last chance with two runners on base, but Shuta Tonosaki struck out and end the game.

Fighters 8, Lions 6

Game notes:

-The Lions finished 17-8 against the Fighters in 2017.

-Rakuten would have a tie against the Chiba Lotte Marines on Wednesday, so the Lions secured second place and will be hosting the playoff series.

-Genda recorded his 10th triple of the season, a new rookie record.  He also became the 4th rookie to play in every inning in his rookie season, the first since Sadayuku Tokutake in 1961. 

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The postseason will begin on October 14. We here at Graveyard Baseball will provide a preview ahead with an outside shot of a podcast recording. We apologize for all the non-podcasts that have happened in the last two months due to technical computer difficulties and both of us going through transitions in our lives.

There will be a preview in writing guaranteed as they take on the Eagles, which will be a best two out of three series. We're looking forward to playoff baseball, something we as Oakland A's fans haven't done in a few years.

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